Decatur buys Methodist children’s home for greenspace, home to use money to expand services

By David Pendered

Decatur’s City Commission agreed Monday to buy the United Methodist Children’s Home, located in the city. The $40 million transaction adds 77 acres of greenspace to Decatur and provides the children’s home funds to refocus and expand the territory it serves.

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Moore Chapel is to be preserved, thereby protecting an expression of the gothic style adopted in the mid 1800s by the Methodist Conference. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

The board that oversees the UMCH voted April 12 to sell the property to Decatur. The city commission voted Monday evening to purchase the site. The deal is expected to close this summer and the UMCH is to vacate the property by late summer or early autumn, according to a statement released by UMCH.

The popular flea market will open in July and the UMCH plans to find a suitable place for future flea markets.

Terms call for the city to preserve the historic Moore Chapel and the gravesite of UMCH’s founder, the Rev. Jesse Boring.

“We are grateful for the City of Decatur’s collaboration with us to preserve our historic Moore Chapel, which will offer our alumni, and others with strong ties to UMCH, a permanent place to celebrate and honor our history,” the Rev. Hal Jones, president and CEO of the UMCH, said in the statement.

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said the city will include stakeholders in developing a master plan for the property.

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A short distance from downtown Decatur, the 77 acres of the United Methodist Children’s Home are sparsely developed, compared to its neighborhood. File/Credit: google earth

“The purchase of this property fits with the city’s mission, vision and values and is an investment for current and future families and children,” Garrett said in the statement. “The city of Decatur will conduct a community-based master planning effort for the future use of the property once the sale is final and the city has possession of the property.“

The UMCH board agreed in January to sell the property, located at 500 South Columbia Dr. It had served as a children’s home for 143 years. Before that, the home had operated for two years in Norcross.

The board describes the purpose of the sale as “unlocking resources” in order to meet current and future needs of UMCH clients.

The home now serves about 240 individuals a day, John Cerniglia, vice president of philanthropic development for the UMC home, said in January. Proceeds from the sale will enable the home to serve an additional 63 individuals a day across an expanded territory, he said. Investment income from the proceeds will enable the home to serve about 300 persons a day in perpetuity, Cerniglia said.

The UMCH provided this description of how the proceeds of the sale will provide for expanded services to children and others in need:

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The 77 acres that comprise the United Methodist Children’s Home is to become Decatur’s next public greenspace. File/ Credit: Kelly Jordan

  • “The City of Decatur pays UMCH $40 million
  • UMCH invests approximately $30 million in its endowment, with the balance spent on costs associated with the preserving the chapel, the sale, leasehold improvements for residential housing and offices across north Georgia, and relocation
  • “$1.5 million is earned in the marketplace annually from the $30 million invested, which is a five percent return on investment
  • “The $1.5 million is used to bring all four of UMCH’s ministries to communities where people need assistance, such as Augusta, Rome, Dalton, LaGrange, Griffin, and other areas. At least 60 more people are served annually, every year in perpetuity, as a result of the sale.
  • “UMCH’s impact grows from 240 people served daily, today, to over 300 a day after the sale, relocation and expansion are all completed.”

The home has been at its present location, 500 South Columbia Drive, for 143 years. Before that, it operated for two years in Norcross.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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